Canadian Labour Congress upset with Flaherty over budget claims
Posted by Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau
The labour movement and the federal New Democrats share a long history together, so it was surprising to hear the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) – the central body linking unions across the country – was endorsing the Conservative budget.
“This is a win for every senior living in poverty in Canada,” Government House Leader John Baird said during Question Period on Wednesday, quoting from a CLC news release issued after the budget was tabled.
It turns out the CLC was also surprised at how its favourable response to what it called a “modest improvement” to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for vulnerable seniors was being portrayed as an endorsement.
It was so surprised by similar statements Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had made to the media that CLC President Ken Georgetti sent him an open letter on Wednesday asking him to stop.
“I am deeply troubled to hear you are misleading the public that the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) gives unqualified endorsement of your government’s budget,” Georgetti wrote.
“Minister, one can support parts of your budget without giving it full endorsement. While we have supported certain measures in the budget, we in no way have given unqualified support for the budget as a whole,” Georgetti added later in the letter.
A spokesman for Flaherty emailed a transcript of a CTV News report that included a clip from Georgetti.
"Well I'd say to Jack there's enough in this budget that we want to look at it seriously in the labour movement. We would think that that would be, if we were at a negotiating table we'd take that offer," Georgetti said in the clip broadcast Tuesday night.
"Sounds pretty supportive," Flaherty spokesman Chisholm Pothier wrote in the email above the transcript on Wednesday.
Flaherty also read that same quote from Georgetti into the record in response to a Point of Order question from Liberal MP Scott Brison on Wednesday about the letter from the CLC. The full transcript is not yet available.
What the CLC said in its news release was that it urged all parties to consider the budget because it liked the GIS increase, but stressed such a measure was not a long-term solution for lifting seniors out of poverty.
The better way, the CLC said, was through eventually doubling the Canada Pension Plan benefits, something which the NDP had also asked for but did not receive. It is also against proposed corporate tax cuts and concerned about where the federal government will find a planned $4 billion in annual savings.
Georgetti said in an interview that he was upset about the mischaracterization because what he really wants is for Flaherty to work with the other parties to reach a deal.
“The job he is supposed to do is table a budget and then work with the parties to fine-tune his budget,” Georgetti said Wednesday. “He probably could have got a deal, but it doesn’t seem to me he’s looking for a deal.”
Georgetti said he was disappointed to lose the GIS increase but does not think Flaherty gave the NDP much of a choice.
“As I watched it unfold I don’t think Mr. Flaherty gave them much option to move. He was very skinny and quite – I don’t what the polite word to say for cheap is, but he could have done a lot better on the GIS, frankly, and he could have been more specific on Canadian Pension,” Georgetti said.
That is why Georgetti finds the whispered suggestions about a disagreement between the CLC and the NDP having a negative impact on how the labour group helps out its favourite political party in the campaign ridiculous.
“No, not a bit. Not a bit. Never will. It’s our party,” Georgetti said when asked if the CLC would lessen its support for the NDP. “If (the Conservatives) were practically looking for solutions for seniors living in poverty, they did a very poor job of it yesterday.”
The national campaign manager for the NDP also stressed the CLC remains on board.
“I know that the labour movement in this country – working men and women – will be working very closely with New Democrats across the country to defeat Conservative MPs so that we can bring in a budget that will actually help working and middle-class families,” Brad Lavigne said on Wednesday. “So I think that it was a swing and a miss for Mr. Flaherty.”
Read the letter from CLC President Ken Georgetti to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty here: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/national/news/canadian-labour-congress-president-ken-georgetti-has-sent-following-letter-finance-min